Dennis Culloton, President and CEO
Don’t make me speak in platitudes again, folks about social media changing the world of getting your message out, blah, blah, blah. For my colleagues, clients and readers over a certain age: remember what the kids were once doing upstairs in their room when you were telling them to turn off the computer and do their homework or else they won’t get into college and get a good job? Well, social media is now a source of good jobs and, more importantly, it can cost someone theirs.
Social media can cause a reputational crisis faster than Tonalist passing California Chrome. Speaking of the Belmont, Chrome’s co-owner Steve Coburn caused a social media blow-up seconds after his intemperate remarks about his competitors not racing in the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness before the third leg of the vaunted Triple Crown. By Monday morning, Coburn was beginning his apology lap on the morning shows– about two days too late.
A textbook example of the speed in which a crisis can be created and put down happened this week in the world of beer. Vani Hari, a blogger better known as FoodBabe.com, pushed Anheuser-Busch and MillerCoors to release the ingredients to some of their top selling beers. She cleverly marketed a petition online with a hashtag #mysterybeer. This is not Hari’s first win over a large corporation. This year she embarrassed Subway into removing a chemical from its bread, one also used in the production of yoga mats. She forced Kraft food to remove the yellow dye in their mac n’ cheese. So A-B and Miller knew not to delay. In less than 24 hours, both companies posted their ingredients online in an effort to be more transparent with the public. Go figure, there is a lot of hops and barley.
Horses, beer, mac n’ cheese…sounds like a good weekend at the Frat House but what’s more, they are important lessons of crisis prevention and management. If companies don’t notice social media flare-ups and respond rapidly, they will lose customers and see the Tweets they ignored turn into legacy media disasters—and even executives and consumers of a “certain age” understand that.